- Our Work
- Get Involved
- Inside Heifer
- Ideas in Action
Heifer International staff in the United States and around the world developed a working set of principles called the Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. These 12 cornerstones are viewed as essential for effective, sustainable development of people, with emphasis on families.
Heifer International’s Cornerstones form the basis of its accountability process. All organizations and farmer groups are screened, monitored and evaluated according to these factors, and project plans prepared by groups take these principles into consideration.
The 12 fit into the acronym PASSING on the GIFTS as follows:
P assing on the gift
S haring and caring
S ustainability and self-reliance
I mproved animal management
N utrition and income
G enuine need and justice
G ender and family focus
I mproving the environment
F ull participation
T raining and education
Project participants in each country define for themselves what each cornerstone means in their own situation, and use these specific definitions during self evaluations. However, Heifer has defined them as follows for general information.
Passing on the Gift
Passing on the gift embodies Heifer's philosophy of practical sharing and caring. Every family that receives an animal agrees to pass on the first female offspring to another family in need, and agrees to pass on to others the training and skills they have acquired. Many groups also choose to "pass back" an additional animal, or else a portion of sales income, to support their project.
The group defines their own needs, sets goals and plans an appropriate strategy to achieve their goals. Heifer provides guidelines for planning the project (including the pass-on process), screening recipients, monitoring farmers' progress and conducting self-evaluations. The groups are responsible for submitting to Heifer semi-annual monitoring reports.
Sharing and Caring
Heifer believes that global problems can be solved if all people are committed to sharing what they have and caring about others. Though not easily measurable, this spiritual aspect of our work is one of Heifer’s most important cornerstones. Sharing and caring also reflects Heifer’s commitment to humane treatment of the animals in Heifer projects, and the shared vision of justice for all people.
Sustainability and Self-reliance
Heifer International can only fund a project for a limited time. The project groups must plan to support themselves eventually by member donations or by group fundraising. Heifer has found that self-reliance is most easily achieved when the group has varied activities and finds support from several sources.
Improved Animal Management
Feed, water, shelter, reproductive efficiency and health care are essential ingredients in successful livestock management, and must be available so that the livestock provided by Heifer can be healthy and productive. The animals must fit into the other activities on the farm without causing an extra burden on family members or the farm resources in general. The species and breed chosen must be appropriate for the area.
Nutrition and Income
Livestock contribute directly to human nutrition and well being by providing high quality protein and fiber, and indirectly through draft power for crops and transportation and manure for fertilizer. The chosen livestock should have potential for profitability, to provide long-term economic security for education, health care, housing and emergencies of all types.
Genuine Need and Justice
Heifer is a partner to victims of poverty and injustice who need an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives, and who can benefit from a modest level of support. Group members, using criteria they develop, determine who will receive animals and related inputs. The poorest in the community should be included in the group membership and receive priority for assistance.
Gender and Family Focus
Heifer encourages women and men to share in the decision-making and to share the benefits of the projects. Heifer gives priority to projects in which the whole family participates and is strengthened by this participation. Husband and wife are encouraged (and in some cases required) to share ownership of the animal and benefits are shared by the entire family. On-farm employment strengthens the family and rural communities by decreasing the need for migration to urban areas for employment.
Improving the Environment
The introduction of the Heifer livestock and technology should improve the environment by having a regenerative effect on one or more of the following: soil fertility (by the introduction of manure), forestation, sanitation, biodiversity, pollution, wildlife, soil erosion and watershed condition. In addition, the project must not cause or worsen any environmental problems.
Heifer works with grassroots groups or intermediary organizations representing grassroots groups. A truly effective group will have strong leadership and organization, committed to involving all members in decision-making. Members of the group "own" the project, and the groups have control over all key decisions. Participation of both genders and all age groups is encouraged.
Training and education
The group decides on its own training needs and local people are involved as trainers. Training includes formal sessions as well as informal (farm visits, demonstration, model or promoter farmers) and is "hands-on" more than academic. In addition to training in livestock husbandry and care of the environment, groups have requested training in diverse topics such as human nutrition, food processing, marketing and group formation.
Spirituality is common to all people and groups, regardless of their religion or beliefs. Heifer works with project partners from all faiths; those who are Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and others. Spirituality is expressed in common values, common beliefs about the value and meaning of all life, a sense of connectedness to the Earth and a shared vision of the future. It often creates a strong bond among group members and gives them faith, hope and a sense of responsibility to work together for a better future.
These 12 cornerstones cannot be separated from each other. When true development is taking place, all are woven together within each family, each community, each project, and each country program.